And so, the season has now run its full circle. It only seems like yesterday that we were heading out on track for the official test back in March. There were a few front running drivers not present on the Supersport grid and so a good result was possible, however, with 37 cars on the grid, that’s never guaranteed.
This was the first event of the season that I’ve only done the Friday test ahead of the weekend. Most of the time, by the morning of Friday I’m just turning in laps pretty much for the sake of it and often times not using all the sessions on offer. It was a strange feeling to try and compress my normal routine into one day but, in reality, it was more than enough to get up to speed.
As ever, I was around 1 second off of the ultimate pace on track, which was disappointing as I tend to go well at Donington, but I wasn’t too worried as I tend to keep to myself over testing and don’t try to chase a tow.
Come qualification, I knew there was a bit more to be had on track and with some careful traffic management, I managed to bag 4th place. It was a great feeling to be back at the pointy end of the field and it was almost a little strange to only see one row of cars ahead on the grid. Brings back good memories!
I made a reasonable start but Mike Evans and his normal rocket ship went down the inside into turn one. I didn’t compensate enough on the speed and, on cold tyres / track, drifted a little wide on the exit. This left an opening for few more cars and cost me some momentum.
By the end of lap one I was in 6th place and in a queue of cars from 1st down to 8th place. I was able to keep up nicely and felt strong. Some battling with Tim Dickens and Mike Evans ended when Mike lost the rear of his car into the old hairpin. I was therefore in a lead pack that was clear of the chasing drivers.
I bided my time early on, happy to wait for the carnage to ensue up front. Donington always leads to close battles and it’s almost impossible to break away due to the effect of the tow. However, the lead drivers kept it all clean and tidy and so there was no option but to try and move forward through the group.
Unfortunately, I miscalculated how much additional speed I would need to do this and also misjudged a few corners which left me too much to do. Tim Dickens found some of his Tracksport magic, and judged these last 10 minutes of his race to perfection. From a position behind me with 10 minutes to go, he’d managed to get to 3rd place by the chequered flag. This is something I’ve got to get better at and will work on my head over the winter to see what I can do.
6th over the line was the result but nose to tail with the entire lead group is better than I have managed this year to date. Although it was a little disappointing coming from the 4th in quali – I knew that was mainly due to other drivers getting blocked and me managing to get a good lap in.
The forecast for Sunday was for rain. I was really looking forward to the race and really felt positive about moving forward. A wet track is something I love and it’s the first propper one we’ve had this year. Off the line and around the first few bends, the visibility was absolutely dire. The worst I’ve ever experienced. I literally couldn’t see the track and the only marker for the correct direction was other cars around me.
Once the queue settled down, I was in around 8th place. I moved forward to around 6th place but at that stage I realised that my car setup was hopelessly understeery around Donington. I’ve made changes through the year to correct oversteer in the car and unfortunately, by doing so, I’ve created a car that can’t corner in the wet. I was something in the order of 5mph slower than I needed to be mid corner and so wasn’t able to compete as I’d hoped.
Whilst others were throwing the car off the track, I was just holding on hoping the track would dry a touch. That wasn’t to be and by the flag I ended up 6th again.
Whilst this was still an OK result, it was a missed opportunity and by the time all the scores had been totted up, I ended the year in 8th place. A couple more points would have seen me in around 5th…
Not a bad season overall and certainly the most competitive grid by a long way in my career to date.
Although funds are now non-existent and debts are growing – I have also decided to do one more year before likely having to hang up the gloves and recover my finances. This now means some busy winter time getting ready for 2017 and I’ve promised myself that I’ll do more to be competitive next year. I much prefer fighting for podiums – I know I have it in me and I want to get back up there spraying the champaign and taking home more pots for the shelves.